Online Billpay “Issues” (Or, Why Wachovia Disappointed Me Today…)

I have been a Wachovia customer for more than seven years. In the past, I have been pleased with their service and the people who work at the local branch in my area are super-nice.

Today, Wachovia (actually, four of Wachovia’s customer service representatives) disappointed me. Here’s the story:

I scheduled an online billpay transaction using Wachovia’s billpay interface. I scheduled for my electric bill to be paid on April 9. Apparently, Wachovia has to ‘write’ and actual check and mail it to my electric company. (In other words, it is not a bank-to-bank transaction, but a physical check is printed and mailed.) Well, I SCHEDULED the payment ON March 25th, to be paid on April 9th. (Too clarify: I went online and entered the payment information ON March 25th, but the date for Wachovia to “pay” the bill was April 9th.) The bill was actually due April 10th. My electric company did not RECEIVE the check until April 12th, 3 DAYS AFTER it should have reached them. Thus, I was charged a $3 late-fee. Now, you may be saying to yourself, NCN, you should have instructed Wachovia to make the payment EARLIER, and not “cut it so close”. And, you would be right! But, please read the following, taken DIRECTLY from the WACHOVIA online FAQs:

Are all my payments sent electronically?

We cannot guarantee that 100% of your payments will be sent electronically. Some billers cannot receive payments electronically. Keep in mind that whether the payment is sent electronically or as a paper payment, the service delivers the payment to the biller on the scheduled pay date.

When does the biller receive my payment?

The biller receives the payment on or before the scheduled pay date you specified. Some billers may not always credit your account on the same day that they receive the payment. Allow for extra time in this situation so the payment is not considered late. If you want to verify the payment posted, you may want to wait a day or two after the scheduled pay date before contacting the biller.

Please note the highlighted portions. I am AWARE that the biller may NOT choose to CREDIT my account on the day that they receive payment, but Wachovia CLEARLY states that the PAYMENT WILL ARRIVE ON OR BEFORE THE SCHEDULED PAY DATE!!!

I called the electric company, and due to my record of always paying my bill on time, they removed the $3 service charge. I then called Wachovia and spoke to FOUR different CSR’s. Paraphrasing, each one of them said, “Wachovia mailed the checks on the 4th, and the payment SHOULD have been there by the 9th. Once the payment leaves Wachovia, it is NO LONGER OUR RESPONSIBILITY.” Each CSR then talked about how I should have scheduled the payment “four or five days” before the due date. I acknowledge that, to be on the safe-side, I should give the BILLER more time to actually DEPOSIT the check, BUT, I should be able to count on WACHOVIA to get the check to them ON TIME! (If you are unfamiliar with Wachovia’s billpay system, they actually provide you with a pop-up calendar which lets you know IF they can deliver a payment on a specific date.)

I not only have to worry about whether a check will get “lost in the mail”, or whether a biller will credit my account, I NOW have to worry if WACHOVIA will actually GET a payment TO my billers ON TIME!

One more reason to go “cash only”. (New website? No Checks Needed…)

Oh yeah, to add insult to injury, WACHOVIA debited my account on the 9th, 3 DAYS before the electric company even received the check!

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15 Responses to Online Billpay “Issues” (Or, Why Wachovia Disappointed Me Today…)

  1. Amber says:

    It’s situations like that that made me super shy of every trying out bill pay. I have actually finally started using it with my bank, it’s free with my account, but I only use it for certain things.

  2. Liz S. says:

    Oh yes, this does not surprise me. I noticed how they debit the account the day the payment should be there, whether or not it has been withdrawn. I feel like there should at least be something to flag whether a payment has been “cashed” or not.

    We’ve been with Wachovia since about 1995 and their CSRs are less than stellar. If they weren’t the largest bank in the area, I’d probably be going elsewhere.

  3. Juan Millon says:

    I have my reservations about using Web Bill Pay from any bank unless I’m paying well in advance! I have never been to excited about Wachovia either. Sorry you had to deal with that!

  4. Tricia says:

    I have free bill pay and I have never used it. While I like my bank, leaving it to them to make sure checks get cut and mailed on time gives me goosebumps. I guess I am a control freak.

    If it happened to me, I’d be just as upset as you are. Glad to hear the electric company waived the late fee.

  5. alex says:

    “I feel like there should at least be something to flag whether a payment has been “cashed” or not.”

    I doubt the bank is sending a check drawn on the customers account, with the customers signature. They cannot have the same checks that you use personally. Customer probably pays bank (reason money is deducted right away), then bank sends check or MO, which is what actually arrives and clears..

  6. NCN says:

    DB,
    The issue is NOT whether I sent the payment on time or with enough leeway… I realize that the BILLER may hold the check for a day or two, and I need to be careful about that… BUT, if Wachovia says they’ll have the check there by a certain date, it should be there by a certain date…
    NCN

  7. Kevin says:

    This is why I pay every bill I can with my American Express, and pay one bill at the end of the month. My utilities will automatically charge my card, and then I just pay the company. On top of that, I earn cashback.

  8. Pamela says:

    NCN,

    I know EXACTLY what you are talking about. My bank has bill pay, and I have never had a problem with it. This past week though, I forgot that I had scheduled a payment to my apartment complex that was unneeded until it was too late to cancel the transaction. So, the day the check was supposed to reach them, I check my account and it has been debited. I figured that the apartment complex had just deposited it with everything else and I would have to contact them to get a refund. Well, I call and the manager actually had my check on her desk because she knew I wasn’t supposed to pay anything. She hadn’t deposited it, but my account had been debited. Two days later, I go by her office and pick up the check. My account is still debited. I go to the bank with check in hand to find out what I need to do. Well, the bank tells me that there hasn’t been a debit on my account for that check yet. I explain that I can see it deducted when I log on to online banking. So, I get referred to a manager. The manager tells me the check hasn’t gone through yet. I tell him “I know, I have the check right here in my hand. Why is it showing deducted from my online account?”. And then I find out that apparantly the check cleared ACH (Automatic Clearing House) because the bank that issued the check (a seperate entity) put it through. Thus, I can see it on my online account. HOWEVER, the check has not cleared any normal depositing procedures (duh, I have the actual check with me), so that is why my bank can’t see it. Hopefully, the funds will show up back in my account in 3-5 business days. In the meantime, my account might operate on the balance that I see, or the actual higher balance, depending on what merchant I am using if I want to buy something. Luckily, either one is fine by me, but it is kind of interesting, isn’t it? The bill pay system seems to set up to only operate well if everything works properly to begin with, with no easy fixes if something goes wrong.

  9. Sam says:

    I gotta go with Wachovia on this one. If you are using bill pay for a bill they can’t pay electronically then the bill gets cut and goes in the mail just like if you were doing so (except you don’t have to remember to do so and they pay the cost of the stamp). Once Wachovia puts the check in the mail they can’t control when it gets to the company anymore than you or I can control the US Mail. I use Wachovia bill pay for a mortgage payment where the mortgage is held by a private individual not a bank and find that it works well. However, I have the bill scheduled to arrive on the 2nd of the month (its due on the 5th) and Wachovia generally cuts the check and sends it out on the 26th or the 27th. Its always worked well for me and the person on the other end (the one holding the mortgage) appreciates that the check arrives the same basic date each month and does not take the same long amount of time to clear as a personal check.

  10. That’s really unfortunate — Wachovia is only batting about .400 in my book (not bad for baseball, but not good for customer service). Given my experience in dealing with their CSRs I honestly think it matters a great deal who you talk to in gauging how (or if) your problem can be solved.

  11. NCN says:

    Sam,
    Did you read the Wachovia FAQ? It CLEARLY states that payment WILL arrive ON OR BEFORE the date that you schedule… cut and dry…
    NCN

  12. Pingback: Around the PF Blogosphere: April 27, 2007 | The Sun’s Financial Diary | A Personal Finance Blog on Saving and Investing

  13. Ed says:

    I don’t like the fact that they deduct the amount from your account when the check is cut instead of cleared.
    Granted with electronic clearing now-a-days even personal checks clear quicker, but can you imagine the interest that is being made when money is taken out immediately but not actually delivered for a number of days later? Times that by the thousands of clients using bill pay and it is no wonder there is no charge for it, the bank is making, well….bank!

  14. PG says:

    I do not understand why you guys are using bill pay for starters especially for paying your utilities. Check out the websites of the utility compamies. Most of them do have a feature that lets you pay your bill by electronic withdrawal from your checking account. That cuts out the middle man. I have the feeling that bill pay is some way to rip you off anyway by withdrawing your money from your account right away, keeping it in their general funds accounts for a couple days to earn interest (= increase banks profits) and then passing it on to the biller.

  15. Judy says:

    Have been using Wachovia for many years. The only problems I’ve ever had with Billpay is on the biller’s side. And then, Wachovia went out of their way to get things straightened out. Fortunately, I’ve not had problems with Wachovia in any way.